Press Centre

Davina McCall: Life at the Extreme

  • Episode: 

    2 of 4

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Mon 07 Mar 2016
  • TX Confirmed: 

    Yes
  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 10 2016 : Sat 05 Mar - Fri 11 Mar
  • Channel: 

    ITV
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“It’s pretty eerie. I’m literally in the middle of nowhere. There’s no land for miles, nothing beneath me.  I hate being on top of the ocean.  I’ve seen jaws too many times, that’s the problem. It makes me feel really vulnerable.” Davina McCall, treading water on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Series overview
 
In this brand new four-part series, Davina McCall: Life at the Extreme, the television presenter travels to some of the hottest, coldest, deepest and wettest places on earth to discover how some of the most extraordinary animals on the planet survive in its most hostile environments.  
 
From the sapping heat of the desert to the biting cold of the Arctic, from the intense humidity of the rainforest to the darkest depths of the ocean, Davina’s adventures to extreme environments include running in the scorching sun alongside cheetahs, sampling how polar bears cope in -30ºC temperatures and free dive in an ocean which is home to the whale that is able to sustain one breath of air for 90 minutes.
 
By living alongside local people, scientists, tribes and the animals themselves, Davina will test the limits of her own endurance and offer viewers an insight into just how extreme, extreme can be.
 
Episode 2
 
In episode two, Davina travels to the Azores, a small group of remote islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Beneath the surface of the waves is a world brimming with life and a playground for some of the world’s deepest diving creatures.  
 
The ultimate diver in these waters is the sperm whale, capable of diving to over 2000 metres in its quest to feast on the squid found near the ocean floor.  Davina’s first challenge is to investigate how air-breathing animals cope with diving to such depths.  She meets champion freediver Frederic Buyle who has broken four world records and swum down 103 metres on a single breathe of air.  Frederic wants to teach her how to freedive and attaches a line to a ledge 33 feet under the water.  Davina’s challenge is to swim all the way down it and back.
 
Davina admits to being petrified:  “It’s not natural for us as air-breathing humans to spend large amounts of time under the water without breathing, it just feels so counterintuitive.  We’re not made for it and I’m actually quite scared.”
 
Davina is feeling the pressure and is close to tears despite Frederic’s reassurances.  Every time she tries to dive, she quickly resurfaces in panic, her heart racing.  But, with Frederic’s encouragement, she is ecstatic when she dives to the bottom of the line.  
 
Davina compares her experience and the pressures deep diving place on the human body with the way whales have adapted to allow their bodies to cope without breathing for long periods while submerged. She then travels out onto the water with local boat captain Emanuel Goulard.  Emanuel grew up on the islands and is known as the best boat captain around for working with sperm whales.  Before long, he spots a school of dolphins and Davina jumps into the water.  After first seeing hundreds of fish in the clear water, the dolphins head straight for her. 
 
Davina says: “That was incredible.  There were loads swimming straight towards me.  Then they saw me and just split off down either side.  They are just the most gorgeous of animals.”
 
The following day, Davina meets Joachim Jakobsen and his wife Kirsten, who run a research foundation to explore the deep.  She joins them aboard their newest submarine Lula1000, to travel 1000 metres below the surface of the ocean.  They will be submerged for over four hours – and the expedition provides a precious opportunity to witness first hand creatures rarely seen or filmed.  More people have been to space, than have explored the sea at this depth.
 
Davina says: “I’ve been scared about this for ages. I even had hypnotherapy before I got here, as there’s no place for claustrophobia in this small submarine.”
 
On reaching 1000 metres down, they are rewarded by the sight of a red, whiplash squid lit up by the lights of the submarine.   Jaochim admits that it is the first time they have ever seen one during their expeditions to the deep.  
 
Shortly after, Joachim and Kirsten are overwhelmed to see a Sailfin Roughshark and both admit to being close to tears.  Joachim explains that no one has seen this shark in the water since he and his wife first saw one 10 years ago, and Kirsten reveals to Davina that she is only the fourth person to see one alive.
 
It is one of the most fruitful dives that Joachim and Kirsten have ever undertaken, with film of extremely rare, deep sea species, captured clearly on camera. 
 
After leaving the submarine, Davina says: “That was magic.  Kirsten says that was one of the best dives she’s ever, ever done. We just saw so much stuff from the minute we went down. There are so many species down there in the extreme deep that nobody’s seen before, it’s uncharted territory.  I feel really honoured to have done that. It was mesmerizing.  Really, really special.”
 
Davina has one last trip out on to the water with Emanuel to find the ultimate deep sea diver, the sperm whale.  A spotter on the coast keeps a watchful eye out for any whale activity and makes contact after seeing one on the south side of the island.
 
The whale is re-oxygenating its body at the surface, after a dive that may have lasted an hour.  Davina may have only ten minutes before it descends again.  She carefully enters the water and swims towards the whale, which is the size of a double decker bus and propels its 50 ton weight through the water at over 20 miles an hour.  
 
Carefully guided by Emanuel, the whale heads towards her and suddenly Davina is swimming over the top of it.  In amazing footage, shot from above and also under the water, we see the huge proportions of the whale as it approaches Davina.  The cameras then capture the whale propel itself down into the abyss for its next hunting dive.
 
Emanuel says:  “You had one of the best encounters you can have in your life, with a sperm whale.  Face to face, you were rolling on top of the whale.”
 
Shortly after, the spotter radios Emanuel about a mother whale and her calf.  Footage of the baby shows a curious calf, which investigates Davina in the water with its clicking sonar. 
 
Davina says: “This has been just the most fantastic experience. I’ve learnt so much, I’ve managed to get into the Atlantic Ocean and go from the very top, right down to the very bottom.  The oceans are so deep there are places perhaps under water that we will never, ever be able to visit.  That’s what I love about the ocean, its beauty but also its mystery.”